Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sierra Nevada @Jose

7:00      Preparación previa con Anca, Oana e Irina en su piso de Granada.
7.30      Salida hacia la estación de Pradollano, estación de esquí de Granada.
8:30      Llegada a Pradollano, preparación y distribución del equipo.
9:30      Inicio del ascenso, salida desde los albergues universitarios, 2300m.
10:30     Llegada al monumento a la Virgen de las Nieves.
11:30     La niebla hace su aparición, nuestra visibilidad de los paisajes lejanos es nula.
12:30     Llegada al refugio del Veleta, situado entre los Tajos de la Virgen y el Veleta. En este momento nos encontramos en la división entre la cara norte y la cara sur de Sierra Nevada.
13:30     Parada para comer en la estación de telesilla del Veleta, con el objetivo de refugiarnos del viento de la cumbre.
14:00     Llegada a la cumbre del Veleta, 3.396m. La niebla limita nuestra visibilidad. El sur está practicamente cubierto por la niebla pero podemos vislumbrar algunas lagunas. En el oeste vemos los Tajos de la Virgen pero no podemos ver ni el Cartujo y mucho menos el Caballo. El este esta cubierto por la niebla y apenas podemos ver entre claro y claro el camino que conduce al Atalaya y al Mulhacén. El sur está también cubierto por la niebla y no podemos ver más allá de la estación de telesilla del Veleta.
14:30     Inicio del descenso hacia los albergues.
16:00     La niebla se espesa y nuestra visibilidad queda muy reducida, variando entre 30m y 10m dependiendo del momento. En este tramo descendíamos cortando entre las curvas de la carretera A-395, pero la falta de visibilidad nos obligó a seguirla durante algún tiempo. La caida de algunas gotas de lluvia nos obligó a hacer uso del GPS para acelerar la marcha.
17:30     Llegada a los albergues universitarios, descanso e ingesta de bebidas calientes en Pradollano.
18:30     Salida hacia Granada.
19:30     Llegada al piso de Anca, Oana e Irina en Granada.      

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada, the snow-capped mountains

30th day, Saturday, 23 oct

Only Silviu would know how much I waited for this. I dreamed of it. And I did it. Well, all four of us did it: I, Anca, Jose and Oana conquered the Veleta peak of Sierra Nevada.

I got up at 6am and decided on what clothes to wear: I settled for three sweaters, my famous white knit hat that resembles a condom (hand-knit by my grandma) and my ubiquitous boots. Jose was ringing the door bell at 7am sharp, but of course he had to wait for a quarter of hour. He brought two packs of water, "crazy amounts of food" cooked by him and by his mother, a huge sack of socks and professional boots for the girls. I also brought my frontal lantern given to me as a parting present from my friends at work.

At 7:15am, while the full moon was still up on the sky surrounded by a orange-ish halo, we got in the car and off we went.

It's really easy to get to the Sierra Nevada ski resort in Pradollano (that's where we were headed for) by car and I'm sure there are touristic buses too. We just drove for an hour and a bit on A395 highway. When it got very windy, all three of us got sick and Jose had to stop for us to take some fresh air. I bet he thought "Girls...".

We arrived in Pradollano or Solynieve ("Sun and snow") at 8:30am. It was really cold in the morning and the resort was empty. I have to admit, it looks like a very very expensive place - you have a perfect highway at 2000m high and tons of posh hotels. @Jose: "It looks like a small Swiss town".

We went to the Information Point hoping we could grab maps, but it would open at 9.30am, so we didn't waste time anymore and left. What kind of Information Point is that, that is open only between 9:30am and 13:30pm, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only?

Jose parked the car in a free parking place located at 2200m high (near the "albergues universitarios") (we went a bit higher on the highway once we got out of Pradollano). We got equipped, took  8l of water (we barely drank 2l so we just carried it for nothing) and distributed the food. Jose even brought socks for us as mentioned earlier, and even though some were huge for our feet, they were very, very welcome. Moreover, Anca received Jose's old pair of boots and Oana, the boots of Jose's mother. All of us had 4-5 pairs of socks. At 9:30 we started going up.

You could do it the wise, easy and long way: walk on the street until below Veleta (you would have to walk 40-50 minutes more from where the street ends). It is very windy, but it is vital to get your body accustomed to the change of air pressure - it gets lower the higher you go. A memorable edifice a the beginning of the hike was La Virgen de las Nieves - which, by the way, we were very happy to see on our descent.

We did it the stupid, but fast and interesting way: we cut the street and went straight up, over the rocks. Once or twice, Jose stretched his foot muscles but it was nothing compared to what Anca went through later. We joked a lot on the way, we talked a lot in Spanish and he would correct us a lot, but this is how we learn stuff, and saw many professional cyclers.

This is a perfect place for mountain biking, except the persons we saw all had track and cyclo-cross bicycles and were all over 30 years old. Gosh, I would like to look like them at 40...I even saw old ladies on track bicycles, very fit and fully equipped.

We actually hiked up alongside with the ski track and the telesilla line (chairlift). When we got at the end of it, at the last big building that hosted the telesilla line, we had already arrived at the end of the highway and below Veleta. Therefore, we sat for a while and ate!

Jose brought indeed a lot of food, but not only was it delicious, it was stuff I never ate before:
- humus (crema de garbanzos con aceite de sesamo) - a sort of delicious spreading for bread
- curry - pollo con garbanzos y cebolla - chicken with garbanzos and onion
- mantecados: these are Spanish sweets that are usually eaten at Christmas - con almendras (almonds), con aceite de oliva (olive oil), con canela (cinnamon) y con ajonjoli (a type of sesame I think) - they are very fatty and crumbly but delicious nonetheless
- pollo con hierbas provenzales (albahaca, orégano, tomillo, romero, ajedrea y mejorana) - a French recipe of chicken meat boiled/cooked with all sorts of spices such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram - take or leave a few of them types
- pan con higos - higos secos, almendras, cafe y chocolate - a sort of salami made from figs, almonds, coffee, chocolate...and a lot of good stuff - we had to thank Jose's mom for that
- tortilla, the Andaluz type (without meat): with potatoes, onion and egg - courtesy of Jose's mom also
- green salad, sandwiches and chocolate

We ate well and went for the top: we got there in about 40-50 minutes I think and the feeling was overpowering: la cima Veleta, altitud: 3396m.

Covered with snow, and surrounded by fog so thick that I bet you wouldn't see your fingers if it were winter. Sierra means "range of mountains" and Nevada is the past participle for "nevar" = to snow. That is why Sierra Nevada = "the snow capped range of mountains" is a very important goal for los senderistos (hikers, people that like to make treks in the mountains): it's mostly sunny because of the southern position and also snowy, because of the altitude.

We didn't have sunny weather, but if we did, we could have seen from one part the city of Granada and all Andalucia, and from the other part - the sea, and Africa with Sahara desert. That would have been great but I am really grateful that I managed to reach Veleta!

Sierra Nevada's highest peaks are Mulhacen (3478m), Veleta (3396-3398m the measurements vary) and Alcazaba (3371m). We were planning to start on the path for Mulhacen after Veleta but that was a bit to much for us and we left it for another trip. Mulhacen is much tougher, whereas Veleta is much more accesible. Its ridge on the left is cut in an angle of 90, I would recognise it in any picture now.

At Veleta's right you could see, covered with snow the angry looking "Tajos de la Virgen" - "tajos" being steep, vertical, inaccessible ridges - "El cartujo" y "El caballo". A beautiful mixture of black and white, lines and fangs.

In the left of Veleta, there is "La Atalaya" and "El Mulhacén", peaks.  Jose told us that hikers would usually reach Veleta, then come down to "el refugio del Veleta" - a big lodge-like building that stands as a refuge, at the foot of Veleta, located in the division between Veleta and "Los tajos de la Virgen". They would camp there for a night, and the following day, they would go for Mulhacén. This is a very good suggestion for what my hiking group should be doing in the future, along with myself, naturally.

We took pictures for a while, meditated, feasted our eyes and after a half of hour we began descending. The fog got very dense, we could only see 20m ahead, but fortunately there wasn't any rain or wind, just the fog. Anca started feeling bad and we were very worried, but she hung on luckily. Jose used the GPS only once or twice, to make sure that we cut the street properly on our way down, salvaging from certain death another group of aproximately 10 people following us like geese. The rapid descent was stupid because we soon felt the effect of altitud sickness. Bear with me for a small excerpt of wiki:

"Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), altitude illness, hypobaropathy, or soroche, is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. It commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). It presents as a collection of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure, resembling a case of <<flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover>>"

    * Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
    * Fatigue or weakness
    * Dizziness or light-headedness
    * Insomnia
    * Pins and needles
    * Shortness of breath upon exertion
    * Nosebleed
    * Persistent rapid pulse
    * Drowsiness
    * General malaise
    * Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face).
    * Diarrhea

I certainly had the first and the last.

The general malaise befell all four of us when we went for a hot cup of something in a pub in Pradollano. We tasted chocolate con churros that was quite cheap (3.40 Euros) compared to everything else in other restaurants there. A coffee would cost only 1.70Euros.

On the way back to Granada, Jose had to stop the car 3 times because we were either very sick, or needed a pause from all the curves of the road. I bet he thought: "Girls..."

Back at home, we watched all the pictures and the movies (yes, there are movies, too) and laughed a lot, but I went to bed ASAP and fell asleep at 10pm. I got up after 11h of healty sleep, proud that I didn't puke and that I conquered Veleta.

I hope with all my heart that I would come back here for Mulhacén.

Being blind in Granada

24th day, Sunday, 17 oct

I felt like walking alone downtown, so I went to the church (Catedral Real). Afterwards, I spent an hour listening to a flamenco guitar player in the middle of the plaza before the Cathedral's steps.

Young people sprawling just like that on the pavement, soaking up the sun, the orange and green old buildings, the sun...pidgeons coming and going, parents with children... This poem i saw etched in porcelain plaques in the plaza really does justice to a Sunday morning in Granada:

"Dale limosna mujer, que no hay nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada."

(Be charitable with him woman, because there is no other pain than being blind in Granada).

25th day, Monday, 18 oct

This was the start of a long series of search heuristics and algorithms in Artificial Intelligence (the class I like best) A*, IDA*, BF, DFS, BFS, RBFS, A/O*. In the evening, I put my cooking skills to use and made bors with potates, peas and chicken (Anca's cousin Dan gave us 3l of homemade sour borch precisely for this). It turned out great! I really felt like home when I tasted it.

26th day, Tuesday, 19 oct

DIU - Diseno de Interfaces de Usuario practica today held a surprise: the first project (delivery date: 5 nov) is about a complete and detailed analysis of, and some other two sites from esthetical and functional point of view. In other words, QA! I get to do that here too. Hopefully, the entire subject will polish my QA skills and help me design good user interfaces.

It's my brother's birthday. Feliz cumpleanos to him!

27th day, Wednesday, 20 oct

Wednesday is the only day without IA, in the rest of the days we either have teoria (4 classes of theory) or practica (2h). After a boring hour of NTP theory, we had to go shopping big time. We got our fridge and cupboards stuffed again with food, joy of joys. Alcampo, Aldi and Mercado (although Jose usually doesn't go to Aldi, we showed him what good cheese they have there - we would't survive without it) usually provide us with anything from peanut butter to eggs.

Jose tried to convince us to buy garbanzos that are very Spanish (I believe it's "naut" in Romanian) but we don't know how to cook them, so I postponed that a bit. We did buy however (apart from tones of milk, cereals and fruit) a lot of mosto "castillo de salobreña" - which is basically grape juice with apple juice and some spices. It's terrific and Jose is addicted to it - it doesn't have any alcohol, it's just delicious juice without acid and it's very cheap - 0.75 cents. Well, we bought one bottle and Jose two: we drank it together anyways - he also tasted our borch and seemed like he liked it.

28th day, Thursday, 21 oct

Two boring Xlib hours and a lot of research for my bachelor project. Don't you just love semantic web and ontologies?

29th day, Friday, 22 oct

The girls worked really hard for their practica at DAC where they design pink cranes and translate them round and round on a green field - I'm joking, this is all I understand from their talking - it's all done in OpenGl. I followed suit and continued the research for my BD project.

El Parque de Ciencias

23rd day, Saturday, 16 oct

Parque de Ciencias - Anca wanted to go here from day 1. It's at the outskirts of Granada and it is a huge site with different buildings, each with trunks full of magic and physics. Since Jose owns a Euro26 card (how do I lay my hands on one of those?), he paid only 6.5 Euros (4.5 for the whole Parque and 2 for the Planetarium) whereas we paid 8.5 Euros(6.5 and 2). As we got there at 2pm, and we were scheduled for the 5.30pm Planetarium session, we had the time in between to go feast our eyes.

I bet Dodo would be green with envy and yellow with jealousy, he'd eventually turn lime-coloured, wouldn't he. Dodo is my beloved co-worker that is passionate with physics and electricity.

We saw so many things, so many processes brought to life, so many experiments and phenomena explained in a very user-friendly way (still I.T. by heart) that I can't wrap my mind around them yet. Jose has technical/mecanics + I.T. background and owns a totally bad ass telescope => he's very interested in physics and could only be really excited when he showed us all the things there, argued with me on occasions, but mostly detailed every nook and cranny of every experiment there. He started arguing with an employee there actually over an electricity experiment.

We first watched an inactment of Foucault's Pendulum and therefore we were convinced that the Earth is round (if someone had any doubt anyway) and then went off to the huge room dedicated to Astronomy and Astrophysics (which honestly, I loved the most). Planets in and out of the Solar Systems, their composition, mass, their gravity constants, the layers of Earth's insides and outsides (troposphere, ionosphere etc.), Coriolis force, and all sorts of other effects caused by the rotation around Earth's axis and around the Sun.

After an hour or so, we went to the first floor and off to the Mecanics room. I was duly upset when I saw no inactment of the Henri Coanda effect but lighted up when  I saw a room full of ancient measuring technology: barometers, hygrometers, thermometers, old Morse telegraphs, ancient phones (that occupied half a wall) - I bet my mom would have loved to see this room, as her background is in telecommunications and worked as a phone operator for 20 odd years.

Starting from 5.30pm, we enjoyed 40 minutes of mind boggling depictions of constellations, planets, systems, black holes, explosions of supernovas and then, from macro we went to micro. DNA, how life on Earth was born - from a hot boiling sea that was filled with cells which made photosynthesis and caused the creation of masses of oxygen down to development of saurians. And a huge swath of Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution. Jose told us that the Granada Parque de Ciencias tried to inject Evolutionism and put an emphasis on this because they are developing right now something connected to this, and are trying to attract sponsors.

After the Planetarium - the first grand Planetarium that I have ever been to and I feel so privileged and lucky because of that - we went to a different building: this was consecrated to space navigation. We saw genuine space costumes (one that went in an Apollo mission too) from NASA, URSS, Chinese space programs, food that is usually taken into space, how they pee in those suits (it's quite an intricate device) and how they communicate.

And the great finale: the rooms dedicated to Electricity where amazing experiments followed suit. Electricity in 10 experiments, to be more specific. How ozone was created from oxygen with the help of an electrcal discharge, the amount of energy we as human beings produce (of course that spawned a few Matrix(the movie) puns) and much more. I'm gonna leave it now for Dodo to dwell painfully on that "much more".

We went for tapas later: history of tapas @Jose - in Medieval ages, people at Court would be brought hot beverages and mixes that had to be covered with something until the savours would blend. Since the plate put above the mug was looking a bit naked, food was served on it, for the customer to eat while he waited for the drink to be done. Wherever you see "bar & tapas" it means that once you order a drink, you are automatically brought food that's included in the price. You can eat really cheap that way. By the way it's mostly in Andalucía, not everywhere in Spain.

But Parque de Ciencias was explored only  40%. We still have 60% more left. Coming up in the next series.

El Dia de la Hispanidad - Columbus Day

17th day, Sunday, 10 oct

The weather has been a bit 'under the weather' - no pun intended - and that could only boost up the need to work at the AES implementation. Confident progress towards ShiftRows stage was made.

18th day, Monday, 11 oct
Manana es dia de fiesta - consequently, el dia antes de la fiesta es dia de fiesta. I'm positive this recursive looking sentence has been understood by everybody. I could only use this time to progress towards the MixColumns stage and Key Schedule in AES. I actually had a conversation with Andrei that scolded me on the grounds that I do not know what 'free time' is. What a strange concept.

19th day, Tuesday, 12 oct

El dia de la Hispanidad is today, my friends! In the United States, it's called "Columbus Day", in Southern America - "El Dia de la Raza" -  it celebrates the day in which Cristopher Columbus, following the orders of Isabela I of Castile (a great visionary) set foot on America. In his health, we drank Sangria, and honestly the girls and I turned a bit rosy-cheeked. No sooner we realized that the Sangria has 7% alcohol than we realized we were getting happier and happier.

I don't fully realise its importance  what with me being a Romanian patriot, but  the Spanish speaking world surely takes pride in being quite vast.

20th day, Wednesday, 13 oct

Boring Nuevas Tecnologias de Programacion theory class looming in the clouds. I thought I would dress elegantly -  I tend to do that at least once a week, a whim of mine - and apparently guys here were a bit surprised. Girls tend to dress...trendy and cool, and ladies over 40 are really elegant and beautiful, it seems a mixture is unusual.

Since Oana had some serious problems with her wifi driver on Ubuntu (it seems all bad luck befalls her), Jose was kind enough as to help her solve her problem - many of our asignaturas here are linux based so Oana was really happy when she had it fixed.  It so happened that it rained today. At sunset, you could see a sort of beautiful red sky - red granada-ish iron dust mixed in the atmosphere - with two rainbows. Absolutely breathtaking.

21st day, Thursday, 14 oct

Iasi - my home town in Romania - celebrates  today along with the thousands of pilgrims the day of Saint Paraskeva (Sfanta Paraschiva). The days of Jassy, a time of praying, a time of going out with your friends/classmates/family and watch the entertaining programs the mayor laid out, a time when merchants from all parts of Romania gather in Iasi to expose their local sweets, national costumes and so on. The smell of icercream, mici (cylindrical barbecued meatballs would be an accurate description) and beer lingers everywhere and the town central plaza teems with people. Although many of my friends say it's not that much fun, what with all the crowds and various types of society strata mixing, I relish it because it's a singular, out of the ordinary period.

If I were at home, I and Silviu would pretend to go watch the fireworks together, but actually go in Taverna (a local rock pub, where we feel like home) and miss the fireworks altogether over a beer.

But I'm not at home, consequently I and the girls just got on with our usual school activities.

22nd day, Friday, 15 oct

Cleaning day, working and reading. (When I say reading, I say Naruto manga reading.)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Salsa and Choir

11th day, Monday 4oct

School - I'm still figuring out my schedule - is starting in baby steps as opposed to school back home (which starts in Ghita Muresan steps). I'm almost ashamed to admit that seminars (practicas) will start in two weeks time in some asignaturas and next week in others. Algoritmica is most certainly interesting and engaging, as the teacher lectures with a velocity of 400 words/second - it's so fast that most words convert into amorph sounds stressed by a hitched breath here and there. That's Andalusian, gentlemen.

Just for the record, Andalusian is the dialect (it is not a dialect strictly speaking though, it's a way of speech specific to the South) spoken here in Granada - it consists in spitting words at amazing rates, not pronounciating the final "s"-es and joining words so that you can't tell when a sentence finishes and another one begins.

Castilian is the literary form of Spanish - the one you hear at the TV - and is fairly musical and clear.

Catalun from Cataluna is a dialect - this one really is and it is spoken in the East of the Spain. It's a mixture of French and Spanish which is an understandable phenomenon for all borderline regions.

Euskara...that's a different animal all together. I suppose you are familiar with ETA - el vasco, la lengua vasca or el euskera is the language of the Basque people that live in the northeastern regions - Spanish people view them as their own but there are many bombs diplomatic tensions as the Basque people require autonomy - I think they already have autonomous government of some sort. The Euskara is the only language in Spain (from what I've been told) that survived the Romanization process. I view it as Etruscan for Italian.

12th day, Tuesday 5oct

School - of course I went back and forth to the faculty only to be announced each time that practicas for a specific asignaturas haven't started yet.

13th day, Wednesday 6oct

This is the day we went to the Comedor or the canteen in the faculty. You have to pay 3 euros and you receive a ticket with which you can receive the day's menu. You can't choose plates - you have an entree, a main course and a salad. Optionally, a glass of red wine. The salad was terrific though - it had a sweet juice, nuts, apple, letuce, tomatoes, onions and so on. We met Alvaro who is somehow in charge of Erasmus students and trips for ETSIIT (Escuela de Telecomunication y Sistemas = our faculty) but all we could get from him (even now, sporadically on messenger) is this [very limited] collection of phrases [csv format follows]: "You don't go drinking at night? You're so boring", "Come to my place, we're having karaoke, me and my buddy, we'll let you go home at 4am", "Let's go drinking", "Let's go to the disco", "You don't know what you're missing".

14th day, Thursday 7oct

I finally got to go to the choir! I picked up a flyer that said the rehearsals were each Thursday, from 5pm till 8pm and all three of us decided to go. It's the choir of the Facultad de Ciencias and it consists of amateurs - pretty much like my choir back home - but I was wondering, why the long rehearsal? Well, it is indeed like my choir - they are pretty experimented, I had to read 5 score sheets (first encounter with the songs) and sing at the same time. The conductor is a young and very enthusiastic person and was really glad that we came. We're already invited to tour with them - and tour we will - on the 16th, 17th and 18th of December. We'll sing in Sevilla too ergo I'll get to see Sevilla and in the same time, keep an upbeat with my voice training so I don't lag behind my choir back home while I'm gone. Perfect!

15th day, Friday 8oct

I only had a lecture, Programacion Declarativa (Prolog) which I find interesting: the sintax is pretty intuitive and it seems that you can do a lot in terms of demonstrations and knowledge representation although I'm not sure if it will be of any use regarding the BA. Nonetheless, I will be familiar with all three main ways of programming - imperative (java, as3, c++ etc.), functional (haskell) and finally declarative (prolog).

This was also the "paying the dues" day - we called Mr. Julio (we always refer to him as "Mos Julio") and paid the rent for October - we nearly paid three rents: one as a guarantee (we'll get these 370 euros back when we leave), for September (well, half of it), and for October. We spent the day shopping - we went shopping with the suitcase. Let me tell you how it works: you take one giant suitcase, buy stuff to last you two weeks (12 cartons of milk, kilos of cereals, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, cheese, cookies, eggplants etc.), put them in the suitcase in an orderly manner, and rip your hands off your torso trying to trudge it to the nearest taxi in a blistering heat.

16th day, Saturday 9oct

It was an interesting day as it rained. I welcomed the rain naturally, and the  wind. It was a quiet day: the girls slept through the afternoon, I started research to implement AES in Qt (I haven't programmed in C++ in a while so it's hard in the beginning) and figured a minimal design, but the Qt part also poses problems (I also haven't used Qt in a while).

It was a quiet day, until 11pm. Then, we went out - sorry George, I know you told me before I left "You'll see, you'll go out dancing salsa at midnight" and I was always like "get behind me Satan". But sadly, you were right. We made a friend here - guess what his name is - Jose (equivalent of Joseph or Iosif in Romanian) who is surprisingly smart (and smart people seem hard to find even at a Computer Science faculty which by definition should be packed with us nerds) and has an English girlfriend, ergo speaks English!

He's really a nice friendly guy and seems to see in us a nice way to practice English. He also slanders his own people a lot. We went dancing - well, I and Oana danced, Anca swayed in a very crisp and restrained manner (I think she was a bit sad about something), only at times being more at ease when she saw us having fun. We were most duly taken home and slept a nice deep sleep. I should not forget to tell you that people here are night miscreants - the streets are empty during the day because most of the people are at work, or simply sleep and have their siesta but they ALL go out during the night. It's like it's a festival every god damned day, only they get out to eat. The town is suffused with kebap and food smells at 12 o'clock in the night and it gets so crowded that you bump into people. Sorry George, you were right.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Let's eat

9th day, Saturday

Saturday was "doing chores" day - we washed clothes (they dried in 1 hour because the sun is relentless here), we had our basin in the bath repaired and paid the rent (half, for September) to the landlord. Very conscientious indeed. I am most certain that the landlord noticed how the air in the apartment now smells like jasmin and soap, and not dust and cigarette smoke.

Before us, some girls lived in the apartment - but I can't fathom how! The washing machine and the oven hadn't been used - neither the shower for that matter - supposedly they sent everything to their mothers for washing and only ate pizza but still, we had to use gloves in the beginning.

In the evening, we went downtown and marveled at the numerous Chinese bazaar/stores that basically had the same products but many customers. I bought myself a Chinese gown (I think I have a ball dress for this year's BA graduation party) and - Silviu, writhe in pain - it is pink (other colours were much more adequate as to what I like but the sizes were either too big or too small). A blonde makes do with pink, how cliché.

PS (#1): It turns out that the truck with gasoline cylinders comes today, not Thursdays how we expected (this is how we get hot water and fire granted that the apartment is older than my dad by a considerable amount of years). You basically have to get out to the balcony when you hear the ruckus they make and yell "1 (2) bombones aqui" - you pay them 1 euro and they bring the cylinders to the piso where you live. We have 3 full cylinders right now, so we're good.

10th day, Sunday

Today, the most incredible thing happened! The wind blew all day and the sky actually tried hard to be cloudy. I also noticed that if it were really cold, I would freeze in my room, because the window is not tightly closed and it lets wind in.

Meals have consisted so far in vegetarian soups, vegetable salads, cereals and mils and fruit. We decided to go wild today since it's  Saturday and spent the morning doing pancakes with finetti (yummy:)) and spaghetti with chicken meat, champignons and grated cheese.

In the evening we went to the Catedral Real located downtown and attended the shortest service in my life. It lasted only 30 minutes. Many old people and no choir but peaceful nonetheless. I think next Sunday I'll go back to the neighbourhood church "Nuestra Senora de la Consolacion" though.

I have put together a faculty schedule and it looks very bad - they emphasize here more the teoricos and so far, less the practicas. I have 6 subjects to attend, each with at least 2 teoricos (lectures) and only one practica (lab). For instance, IA is packed with 4h of lecture and 2h of practica.

I just have to get through 8h of Spanish classes tomorrow.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Vivimos aqui sub pod.

7th day, Thursday

I had Sistemas Multimedia for the 1st time (since we missed Tuesday's lecture). The teacher is young and nice but we were nervous nonetheless. Well, that ceased the moment he started asking the whole class "Savez por que es el cielo azul?" and ultimately "Que es el sonido?". Silence. Either the rest of the students were being slow (I said the definition as I remembered it and the teacher was pleased *insert bewildered emoticon here*). He had to resort to a very plastic analogy as to make them understand what exactly is sound - "imagine you have a room full of gelatin and if I punch it - bam! - it will shake and be wobbly-wobbly" (we learned about sound 7-8 years ago and without such metaphors).

This is when depression hit me for the first time since I left home.

Afterwards, the teacher surprisingly made a smooth transition from "wobbly-wobbly" onomatopoeia to Fast Fourier Transform definitions and  algorithm to analyze sound. I felt better.

The girls went out in the evening, but I had to go to a 2h lecture from 7pm till 9pm which I thought was Logic Programming. Instead it was Programming Languages and it was tremendously easy (characteristics of all programming languages, a bit of C, a bit of Haskell). This confusion occured naturally because their schedule  has the subjects abbreviated. I stayed anyway - I was the only girl, and there were 6 boys too.

I got depressed again. I got really mad, however, when one of them asked me something about lists, trying to convince me not to drop the whole course. I understood "Lisp" and I told him "No, I don't know Lisp yet, I hope I'll learn it soon". He  only understood "No" (obviously never heard of Lisp) and started to enumerate fast in Spanish "areyes, matrices, pero no Matrix, no la pelicula".

Concluzion: he took me for a stupid girl who never even heard of lists, and the only matrix there is would be the one in the eponymous movie.

I can't understand Spanish perfectly and I certainly can't express myself correctly (right now) in Spanish. English is useless.

I had no way of getting through to him, he was already feeling smug. How could I tell the idiot that last year I implemented in C++ the entire DSA and RSA cryptosystem, including attacks? Nevermind that, how could a third year in Computer Science ask someone about such basic concepts? It's like asking a painter if he knows what is a chevalet.

I slept with a headache, and I woke up with it. 

8th day, Friday

Today was a better day - firstly because I finally found the schedule for Logic Programming and secondly because I started doing tutorials for Processing. It even has OpenGL. I'm wondering how the GUI will come up for the BA paper & application, using Processing and Java but I am looking forward to it. I think I'll start making the designs after I figure out the RDFa and the Ontology parts.

In the evening, we went out (we all do it in threes) and met with Linah, a Flemish girl that lives in Belgium  and was born in Africa (she told me that people living in Flanders hate French and consider themselves Dutch). It was fun to see the town at night time (teeming with people).

PS (#1): We're known around the campus as the blonde, the redhead and the brunette Erasmus students, me incidentally being the blonde, Anca the redhead and Oana the brunette. That is indeed something I would like recognition for, I bet everyone back home envies me.

PS (#2): Sometimes at the TV they show gypsies that claim they're Romanian and recount how vile the Romanian government is, how they don't receive any help (and money for free like they do in Spain) - "Vivimos aqui sub pod", "Nostra casa - ne-am carat-o cu roaba - patru cinco", "Nimeni nu s-ar intoarce in Romania de buna voie" ("Nobody would willingly come back in Romania").

I am very tolerant, but how can I agree with a minority that slanders my country everywhere and compromises it internationally beyond any hope of redemption? When in Romania, most of them say they're not Romanian - they don't have a sense of belonging to Romanian culture - they're Roma. I wish my country were not slandered, and foreigners wouldn't confuse Romanians for Roma gypsies.

PS (#3): Oana calls every Spanish person "Rodriguez". How was the Artificial Intelligence teacher called? Rodriguez. How was the guy to your left called? Rodriguez. How is the landlord called? Rodriguez. And she takes a photo of every single God damned graffiti :) .